Thursday, January 25, 2007

Social Attitudes Survey

Yesterday's report on the results of the social attitudes survey which were printed in the Guardian were very interesting indeed. Most intriguing for me was the figure citing that 57% of the population consider themselves "working class" versus 37% who consider themselves "middle class". While the latter figure has increased, the fact that 57% consider themselves working class in today's climate is to me rather astonishing.

One of the primary reasons I find this surprising is that union density is only 26%. The other is that the postmodernist and Thatcherite legacy of the "classless society" which continues to be propped up by the media and the upper classes has failed to change the percptions of the people on the ground. Further, there is a real disconnect here between the large percentage of the population of those who cosider themselves working class and the lack of support for New Labour. Worryingly, the decline in New Labour and indentification of it as a working class party has led some of the self identified working class to support the far right BNP. In Billy Bragg's new book "Progressive Patriot" he takes up this issue head on and should be compulsory reading for those on the left seeking to offer an alternative to the disillusioned members of our class.

Two additional positive statistics show that despite the fear mongering in the press and the popularity of Gloria Hunniford's Heaven and Earth show (sarcasm), there was a marked "decline in religious identity" according to the Guardian, "with more than two-thirds of people (69%) saying that they do not belong to a religion or have never attended a religious ceremony". This figure was only 24% in the swinging 60's.

Finally, there is a decline in "Britishness" and an increase in "Englishness" with 44% down from 52% considering themselves British and 40% considering themselves English up from 31% under ten years ago. Reading Bragg's book, it becomes clear that the increase in the self-identification as "English", while it may not intrinsically seem so to those on the far left, could actually be a very positive development, not least because it may indicate a distancing of identification with the empire. Bragg's point is that Englishness can be claimed to be progressive and in fact has a progressive history in a way that "Britishness" doesn't. Whether or not one agrees with him - it is worth thinking about.


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